A panel helmed by former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman will reportedly recommend closing the Rikers Island jail complex and replacing it with smaller jails, the New York Daily News reported Thursday. The 27-person panel has been studying the Rikers facility for more than a year and is expected to bring their recommendations for closure to City Hall on Sunday.
The Daily News' sources said the recommendations call for the supervised release of "some of the detainees," the construction of smaller jails across the five boroughs, and an overhaul of the facility's bail system. All told, the transition into a network of smaller jails is expected to be completed within a decade. Rikers currently holds approximately 10,000 inmates, most of whom are still waiting on their day in court.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a reversal, will support the plan and honor the recommendations. People briefed on the mayor's decision told the New York Times Friday that de Blasio had agreed on a Rikers Island shutdown plan, adding that his plan would closely follow Lippman's 97-page report. A draft of the report shows that the transition into smaller jails will cost $10.6 billion.
The latest push to reexamine Rikers follows the premiere of this year's Jay Z-produced documentary Time: The Kalief Browder Story. The six-part docuseries tells the story of 16-year-old Kalief Browder, who—without conviction—spent three years on Rikers Island. Browder committed suicide in 2015, just two years after his release. "Every day was a struggle," Browder's attorney, Paul Prestia, told CNN at the time. "He lived with a degree of sadness every day since his release."
A previous plan to close portions of Rikers Island, led by then-commissioner of the New York City Correction Department Martin F. Horn, was strongly opposed and ultimately squashed a decade ago. The latest plan has also drawn criticism, as some have questioned de Blasio's intentions:
Though closing Rikers is a win, the decentralization may present new problems:
Why aren't we having a conversation about sending less people to jail instead?